Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, says Jamaica has put forward several programmes and policies, which have significantly improved the human rights and justice landscape over the past 50 years.
The strides include the right to a decent life, right to education, free speech and expression, liberty, freedom of movement and freedom from discrimination, as well as gender and rights of the child.
Making his presentation at a Jamaica 50 Lecture Series, under the theme: ‘Justice and Human Rights Issues since Independence’, at the Silver Spring Civic Centre in Silver Spring, Maryland, on February 21, Senator Golding said human rights have received special attention over the years since independence.
He pointed to several legislative changes, including amendment of the Constitution in 1999 to grant Jamaican women equal rights with men with respect to the acquisition of Jamaican citizenship by their children, through descent.
Others included the Status of Children Act, 1976, which abolished illegitimacy; the Maternity Leave Act, 1979, which provided for job security for women after child-birth; and the Property Rights of Spouses Act, 2006, which provided for the equitable distribution of property to the spouses in a long-term relationship.
In relation to human rights, Senator Golding said Jamaica has demonstrated its commitment to protecting the rights of its citizens by becoming a member of the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on Prevention and Eradication of Violence against Women.
Turning to the right to free speech and expression, the Minister noted that the Information Act of 2004 provides for a legally enforceable mechanism for obtaining information from the Executive and Public Sector. This, he said, is to promote transparency and accountability.
Further, he said that the deregulation of the electronic media, has given greater voice to journalists and civil society.
“This has deepened our democracy and heightened public awareness of corruption and injustice,” the Minister said.
The Justice Minister said that in addition to the vital support that members of the Diaspora continue to provide Jamaica, it can also play a significant role in the promotion of human rights and justice, “thereby contributing further to the development of our beloved homeland.”
The lecture series, which is the brainchild of Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Stephen Vasciannie, was also attended by Minister of National Security, Hon. Peter Bunting; Commissioner of Police, Owen Ellington; and Director of Public Prosecutions, Paula Llewellyn.
Along with Senator Golding, they were in Washington to participate in an Inter-American Dialogue on the lottery scam, and to outline measures being undertaken by Jamaica to address the problem.
Also attending the lecture were Mrs. Lisa Vasciannie; former Jamaican Ambassador to the United States, Richard Bernal and Mrs. Bernal, and Ambassador Curtis Ward and Mrs. Ward.
The event was sponsored by Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), which was represented by General Manager, Earl Jarrett.